HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Two hospital systems in West Virginia have reduced hours and furloughed hundreds of employees to offset the impact of government mandated stipulations surrounding the coronavirus.

Both Mountain Health Network, the parent company of Cabell Huntington Hospital and St. Mary’s Medical Center, and Thomas Health System made separate announcements Friday evening.

The announcements were separate but the reasons for the layoffs are the same. The hospitals have stopped doing elective procedures in order to prepare for a surge of coronavirus patients but their hospitals are now empty and their revenue streams deeply impacted.

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Mike Mullins

Mountain Health said its furloughs are affecting many of its 6,000 workers.

“The situation we are dealing with is creating hardship for all and it is beginning to hit us hard here in Huntington and surrounding areas. With the drastic drop in volumes reaching nearly 50% throughout our system, we have no choice but to adjust our staffing to patient demand,” Mountain Health Network CEO Mike Mullins said in a Friday night statement. “We had to make the difficult but necessary decision to enact temporary furloughs for several staff members across the system affecting the majority of the 6,000 employees beginning March 26.”

Mullins also announced the closure of Cabell Huntington Hospital Family Urgent Care Center in Huntington and Hurricane Express Care in Putnam County until further notice.

Mullins said he’s unsure how long the furloughs would last.

“At this time, the likely duration of the furloughs is unknown; key factors are the extent of the outbreak in the MHN service area and the duration of the government-imposed emergency mandates,” he said. “We will continually evaluate the situation with the goal of returning to full services for patients as soon as the pandemic declines and state government will permit.

Mountain Health has reduced the hours of 450 workers effecting a total of 1,000 of its employees on the two campuses.

Thomas Health System layoffs

Thomas Health, which runs Thomas Memorial Hospital in South Charleston, St. Francis Hospital in Charleston and Thomas Health Physician Partners, furloughed between 400 and 500 people Friday.

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Dan Lauffer

“While the majority of our workforce will continue to work full-time, we have had to take the
difficult step in temporarily furloughing workers who do not have positions directly related to
our most critical needs,” Thomas Health President and CEO, Dan Lauffer said in a news release.

In recent weeks, Thomas Health, which operates Thomas Memorial Hospital in South Charleston and St. Francis Hospital in Charleston and Thomas Health Physician Partners, has eliminated elective and non-emergency surgeries, outpatient procedures and tests while preparing for a possible surge of coronavirus cases.

“This was a very painful decision to make, and I recognize the tremendous sacrifices that staff are making in this time of uncertainty. Given these extraordinary circumstances, this was an action that we had to take to ensure long-term viability of our health system, for our workforce at large and for the communities we serve,” Lauffer said.

Charleston Area Medical Center (CAMC) President and CEO Dave Ramsey said Thursday on MetroNews “Talkline” CAMC is losing approximately $1 million a day because of reduced patient count and procedures. CAMC has asked workers to take non-paid time off and to share work. It also has a 140-day reserve fund.

Thomas Health isn’t as strong financially as CAMC. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January and is currently reorganizing. Most of the financial problems have been linked to long-term debt.

Lauffer indicated Friday the plan is to call the furloughed workers back to work after the pandemic is over.

“We look forward to welcoming each one of these valued colleagues back to the Thomas Health family as this pandemic resolves and when our services are back to full capacity,” he said.